Helpful Moving Tips
This page (formerly known as 'Moving Tips') is dedicated to providing helpful tips for people who are planning to make a move of their household goods and personal effects. Included are tips for moving and storage, Van Lines, moving locally, interstate within the U.S. and international forwarding. In todays market place, a person who needs moving services can feel intimidated.
You have to trust all your worldly possessions to some company and hope they deliver them back to you when you want them, where you want them, and within a reasonable price range. Sometimes, it can feel like you are being held hostage. It's been rated as the third most highly pressured experience next to going to jail or getting married.
Many of you have read or seen news stories about movers or heard accounts from friends relating some atrocity a mover had done to an unsuspecting customer. If you think "This couldn't happen to me, I'm too smart", guess again. The average citizen moves 7 times in their lifetime. Movers do it every day.
The tips on this page are suggestions. I do not accept any liability or give any guarantees that if you follow these tips it will change the quality of your move. They are based on my experience as a professional mover and are meant quite sincerely to simply help anyone who will care to wade through this. I believe in the adage an educated consumer is better for business.
I am not a programmer, so this page contains no fancy graphics or colors. It is produced using the Freeware html editor 'Hotmetal 2.0' as well as a little help from my friends. (Thanks guys, especially you A.P.)
Oh, by the way, my name is Michael Perkins. I hold a bachelors degree in Transportation, an MBA in Management and have worked in a managerial position in moving companies since 1980. I'm currently Vice President for a moving company in New York. Don't worry, I'm a professional (It's true, movers get ALL the best chicks). If you want to know more about me, you can take a peek at my professional resume by simply Clicking Here! Enough of my rambling, here come the tips.
Decide if you want to hire someone, or do-it-yourself. Look at all the costs carefully, don't assume you will save money if you do-it- yourself. Don't forget about costs for insurance and gasoline for the truck, not to mention the value of your 'sweat equity'. You may be in for a surprise.
There are serious safety issues to consider if you rent a truck. Make sure the truck you are driving has been properly maintained. Recent news reports, including a November 7, 1997 report on ABC's 20/20 program, suggest this is not always the case. Faulty equipment combined with inexperienced drivers (You!) can result in a very real personal disaster.
Sure, working for a moving company, I have a bias against the do-it- yourself method, but, that doesn't mean everything I'm saying isn't true.
Be careful in selecting a mover. Start by asking friends who they may have used and had good experiences. Don't stop there. Every mover has done both good and bad moves, so check further. Your local 'Better Business Bureau should be a must. Make sure you deal with a reputable firm. Never use a mover who's main source of advertising are signs posted on trees and telephone poles.
Make sure the mover is properly insured. Many fly-by-night companies do not have workmans compensation which is required by law in most places. If this coverage is not in place and a worker gets hurt on your property, you could be liable for his injuries. He could end up owning your home!
If you want to use one of the national familiar firms, you must understand, most of these companies use 'agents' in most areas that are not really the company you may think you are calling. There is nothing wrong with this, it's how the industry works. The major van lines work with smaller local movers who sell the van lines services, and do local work for the van lines (packing, local pickups and deliveries, etc.) and often do limited hauling. It is common for a major van line to have more than one agent in a given location, so it is important you check out both the van lines AND the agent.
Also note, if you call a van lines agent for a local move thinking the van lines will do the move, you are mistaken. The agent will do the move on his own authority. Most van lines don't have the authority to do local moves. If you are moving internationally, you may not get the van lines you think you are getting either as most agents have no obligation to use their primary interstate van lines for international moves.
OK, you have chosen several possible candidates for movers. You have good recommendations and they all are clean with the Better Business Bureau. The next step it to get written estimates. It's important to take the time to have the mover send a representative to your home to see the move and give you a written estimate. This is where most people get tripped up.
If you have a written estimate done by a representative who came to your house, you have certain legal protections against the price being jacked up. So long as you do not make any material changes in the move, the mover can only collect within a certain percentage of his estimate on delivery. In many cases, if the actual charges legitimately go more than that, you may owe him the money, but you will not have to pay it on delivery. Many movers will even guarantee their estimate if they come to your home to do a home survey.
Many movers know if they give you a written estimate, they will be legally bound within limits to their estimate, so they may try to actually talk you out of sending an estimator. This is a BIG WARNING SIGN that this is a company you do NOT want to work with, no matter how nice or sincere the fellow sounds on the phone, or how cheap they may seem. In every news story I have ever seen about moving horror stories, virtually all have said 'I got a good price on the phone, but when they did the move, they jacked it way up!'
You do not want to schedule your estimate too far in advance before the move. If you do, it is possible the prices will change. Also, you may change your mind about moving certain items or other services you may need. No more than 60 days before the move is recommended
Don't wait for the last minute either. Give it at least 2 week before the move when you contact movers.
Speaking of time, it is important to note it takes time to do a move. Most interstate moves are done on large tractor trailers that typically hold 5 or 6 or more different household goods shipments. Movers rates are based on moving fully loaded trailers to and from origin to destination. That is why they need flexibility on the dates often for both loading and delivery. If you have a small shipment, but have specific date requirements for pickup and/or delivery, be prepared to pay a premium price for this service.
Also speaking of time, the quality of your move can be effected by when you move. Movers tend to get busier at the end of the month. They are also busier during the summer (typically, a mover can do about 2 thirds of their business for the year between the end of May and Labor Day.
The last week of the month in May, June, July and August are the busiest weeks of the year. If you must move during these weeks, contact your mover well in advance and reserve your move day. It's not unusual for these weeks to book up 4 to 6 weeks in advance.
If you can avoid these busiest weeks, you will be better off. All movers hire temporary, less qualified help to augment their work force during these peak times. Also, if you are moving interstate, the chances are much greater your shipment will have to be picked up by the local agent and held at their warehouse as opposed to being 'direct loaded' on the truck that will bring it to destination. This extra handling increases the instances of loss or damage.
The mover can do all or little of your packing for you. Pieces of furniture, including televisions, and large electronic items, are blanket padded. There is no charge for this. If you want to save money, you can do most or all of your packing yourself. You can use any type of box you wish (don't use bags) from the local grocery story or wherever you can find them.
If you don't want to do it yourself, the mover can do any or all of the packing for you, but it will be at a price for both the cost of the cartons and the packing labor. What I usually recommend to most customers is to let the mover professionally pack your breakables. If you want to pack books, clothes, linens, etc., that is fine.
You can leave clothes and linens in dresser drawers so long as it does not leave the dresser too heavy to safely move and the shipment is not going to storage for any length of time (this could cause mildew). Mattresses and box springs do have to be packed. Usually the mover will do this, but expect a cost for this as well.
Most movers offer several types of liability coverage (referred to by movers as 'valuation', not insurance. I don't know the difference, but if you want to know, consult an insurance expert). These break down into 3 basic types. A minimum amount of coverage which is usually provided for free, An actual cash value type coverage and a full replacement type of coverage. Know what type of coverage you want and how much.
The minimum amount is usually $.30 to $.60 per pound per article. That means, if you have an item that weighs 100 pounds, and you have $.60 per pound per article coverage, the movers liability for that items is no more than $60.00.
Actual cash value means the liability for anything that is lost or damaged, the mover is liable for the actual value, meaning the purchase price minus depreciation. Usually, you will have to state a lump sum value for the shipment and a premium is charged, usually around $.50 to $.75 per each $100.00 of stated value. The maximum you could collect if the entire shipment is destroyed is the lump sum you declared.
The third type is full replacement coverage. There is often deductible options offered with this type of coverage. To understand the difference between full replacement coverage and the actual cash type, my favorite example is to assume you have a 5 year old TV. The TV is dropped by the driver and smashed in little pieces. If you have actual cash coverage, the claim department will apply depreciation and pay you the value of a 5 year old TV. If you have full replacement coverage, you will be paid for a new TV.
One more point about valuation, people often ask if they do their own packing, will they be covered for anything missing or damaged in the carton. The way I usually answer this is simple. If a carton is delivered in exactly the same condition it was picked up and there is damage inside, you will most likely not be covered. If the carton is properly packed, there should be no damage in side with normal handling.
If the exterior of the carton is clearly damaged in some why and there is damage, inside, you will be covered. Of course this only applies to cartons you pack versus cartons the mover packs. If anything is damaged in a carton packed by the mover, you are covered. That is why I suggest you let the mover pack your breakables.
Speaking of insurance, it's the kind of thing you want to have, but hope to never need. Even the best moving company will have some damaged or missing items. When this happens, you will have to contact the mover to file a claim. Do not assume the driver will pass this information to the movers claims department, contact them as soon as possible.
In case there are any lost or damaged items there are 3 key things to remember. They are DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT!!! In the preparation of Interstate and international moves the mover will usually prepare a document called a 'Conditioned Inventory'. This document is a list of all the items you are moving and the exact condition of each item. The list is numbered and there will be numbered stickers attached to each item.
You will be asked to sign this document twice, at both origin and destination. Your driver will sign it as well. At origin, when you sign you are acknowledging the items that were taken and their condition. On destination, you are agreeing you received all the items on the inventory and also to their condition.
It may take a little time, but it is vitally important you check the inventory carefully at origin and destination before you sign. Do not be pressured into signing until you are satisfied. Anything missing or damaged at destination should be noted on the inventory. This will be the claim departments main consideration when settling any claim. I've seen many legitimate claims denied because the customer did not take the time to review the inventory properly before they signed.
Inventories are not always prepared on local moves. If you wish, you could request an inventory be made, but understand, if you are paying by the hour, making and reviewing an inventory will usually increase your time and cost. Still, if you want one, you should advise your mover (If they say they can't do one, you may want to re-think using that mover).
In the absence of an inventory, you can still document anything damaged or missing on the bill of lading. Make sure you review this with the driver and have him sign any notations you make regarding damaged or missing items.
One more point. After the delivery, the law allows you up to 9 months to file a claim against your mover. It is always best to file your claim as soon as possible. Any delay can put questions in the minds of the people in the claims department and hinder a favorable decision regarding your claim.
How do movers charge? Your basic move costs could be based on the weight of the shipment, the time involved to move the shipment, the cubic footage of the shipment or any combination. A colleague of mine once said he used to use the pop method. He would look at a move and charge whatever number popped in his head.
Local moves are usually charged by the hour. The time charged usually includes 'travel time' which is the time it takes the move crew to get from their office to your residence, then back to the office after the delivery.
Interstate moves are usually charged by the weight of the shipment although some of the newer companies charge by the cubic foot. Services like the use of elevators and stair carries are charged at an extra rate.
International moves are commonly charged on either weight or cubic foot basis.
Packing services are usually charged separately, usually at a specific rate for providing each carton and providing the packing labor. There are many other services that could apply also for special services like hoisting, special handling of bulky items like cars or boats, servicing of special items like washing machines or grandfather clocks etc. I could go on and on.
Payment to movers are usually done on delivery in cash or certified checks. Some movers take credit cards. None will take personal checks.
If you feel your moving crew did a good job and want to tip them, by all means do so. It is customary to tip the driver and let him take care of his helpers. Usually, the helpers work for the driver. It is important to understand, tipping is not mandatory. I state this because some movers actually put tipping on the bill and try to pressure you. Understand, it is illegal to require tipping. If you are not happy with the movers work and do not want to tip, you do not have to.
Many movers have special deals they can offer you through various organizations you may belong to. Unions, the Auto Club, Masonic organizations, etc. may have contracts with movers to provide significant discounts for their membership. If you belong to an organization, check this out, it could save you a lot of money.
If your organization does not have this feature, E-mail me their name, telephone numbers, and persons name to contact. I will get in touch with them and make this service available.
OK, 10 tips seem like enough. For those of you that have read this far, I thank you for your patience. Glancing at the clock on the wall, it seems my 15 minutes of fame are nearly up.
Oh yes, for your extra patience, let me leave you with one final Bonus Tip. In the U.S., movers are granted authority and more or less regulated by some governmental agency. Each state has some Public Service Commission, or Department of Transportation or something along those lines. In the U. S., interstate movers are regulated by the Federal Highway Administration which is part of the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) [up until 12/31/95, in the U. S., movers were regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) but they are now no longer in existence]. If all else fails and you are having problems with your mover that you cannot seem to settle, grab a phone book and call the appropriate regulatory agency. The phone number fore the Federal Highway Administration in Washington, DC is 202-927-5520. Nothing will ruin a movers day more than having to answer to the government.
If you like, you can save this page for your future reference (or impress your friends!).
You can also CLICK HERE if you want to E-Mail me any comments or if you have any specific questions about your move. I like to get E-mail, I promise I'll read it.
Here is a helpful link if you want more information. This is put up by the U.S. Government and it is titled Your Rights and Responsibilities.
While on the subject of the Government, the U.S. Post Office (Yes the good folks that bring you snail mail) has a page called Movers Net. It's a pretty useful list of things to know and think about when you are moving. It's worth checking out just to see how Uncle Sam is using some of our hard earned tax dollars. They even got some stuff in Spanish!
Another useful link for people who may want to get a ballpark guess of your U.S. domestic moving cost right now is The Homebuyer's Fair Moving Calculator. They also can give real estate advise and also recommend movers in your area.
Still another helpful link is 10 Ways to Spot a Mover You Can Trust. This is put up by Movers Net and they are really good people.
How to Have Big Money Garage Sales is for people who are thinking of having a garage sale. The pages author is selling the information in booklet form. It's not very expensive, just a few bucks, and it sounds pretty useful. If anyone buys this book, e-mail me. I'd like to know what you think.
Finally, for those who may want to know more about me and missed it above, here is a link to my professional resume. Just Click Here!
If anyone wants to use or reprint any or all of this page, or link this to your page go right ahead. I just ask a few things in return. First, let me know about it. E-Mail me a note. Second, don't make any material changes. Third, I forbid it's use in any companies marketing or promotional efforts. And fourth, give me credit. My ego likes that.
Michael Perkins MPERKINS@HOFLINK.COM
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